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Russia unveiled its new ‘Checkmate’ fighter jet as Putin heaped praise on the country’s aviation industry

Putin personally inspected the new aircraft as it was unveiled Tuesday. Here's what the new fighter looks like. ...
Checkmate, new Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter jet is seen during an opening ceremony of the MAKS-2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 20, 2021
Checkmate, new Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter jet is seen during an opening ceremony of the MAKS-2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 20, 2021

  • Russia has unveiled a prototype for a new fighter jet, one currently nicknamed "Checkmate."
  • Putin personally inspected the aircraft design at an aviation show on Tuesday.
  • The Russian president hailed the creation as an example of Russia's aviation industry prowess.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Russia officially unveiled a prototype of a stealthy new fighter on Tuesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his country's aviation industry and the development of new competitive aircraft designs.

The fighter, which is unnamed but being developed under the project name "Checkmate," was unveiled at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky. The plane was kept in a hangar with the word "Checkmate" written in English, according to AFP.

Russia's new "Checkmate" stealth fighter at its unveiling
Checkmate, new Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter jet is seen during an opening ceremony of the MAKS-2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 20, 2021

The unveiling of the new single-engine fighter follows the release of an unusual teaser photo by Russian state-run defense conglomerate Rostoc last week and state media reports in spring of this year that Sukhoi Aircraft Company was working on a light tactical fighter able to fly at supersonic speeds with low observability.

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"What we see now in Zhukovsky obviously demonstrates that the Russian aviation has high potential for development," Putin, who personally inspected the new aircraft Tuesday, said in a speech at the start of the aviation show, according to state media. "Our aircraft industry also continues creating new competitive aviation equipment."

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Citing Oleg Panteleyev, the Executive Director of Aviaport Aviation News Agency, Russia's state-run Tass News Agency recently suggested that the new light-to-medium-weight fighter jet could rival the US military's fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

Panteleyev appears to have been referring to competition in foreign markets rather than capability.

It is not clear exactly how Russia's new "Checkmate" fighter – which Russian state media has reported will be stealthy, have a high thrust to weight ratio, have a large weapons payload capacity, and carry advanced armaments – might compare to US fifth-generation planes.

Russia currently has a number of capable fourth-generation fighters but only one fifth-generation fighter, the heavy Sukhoi Su-57.

Checkmate, new Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter jet is seen during an opening ceremony of the MAKS-2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 20, 2021
Checkmate, new Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter jet is seen during an opening ceremony of the MAKS-2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 20, 2021

The new fighter jet, which is touted as a light fifth-generation aircraft, purportedly has a max speed of about Mach 2, a range of about 1,800 miles, and a payload capacity of around 16,000 pounds, the Associated Press reported, citing the company behind the new design.

Additionally, the design can be reconfigured from a single-seat aircraft to a two-seat plane or set up for unmanned operations, the maker said.

The plane was designed by Sukhoi, part of the Rostoc conglomerate, for the Light Tactical Aircraft program. It is expected to make its maiden flight in 2023 with fielding starting in 2026.

A teaser promotional video released by Rostoc prior to the unveiling of the new jet featured a collection of multinational pilots, suggesting that Russia could be looking at exporting the new fighter overseas.

Russian officials, the AP reported, have indicated a desire to sell the jet and said that foreign buyers have already expressed interest. The head of Rostoc, who estimates the plane will cost around $25-30 million, has said the Russian armed forces are also expected to place an order for the new jet.

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